Low-sugar acai bowl

My Instagram feed has been LOADED lately with smoothies. Smoothie bowls, açai bowls, ‘nice’ cream, basically blended up cold things, with toppings for crunch.

Don’t forget the toppings!

Out of all the breakfast foods (OK perhaps not the avo toast as that is the ULTIMATE in photogenicity) the smoothie bowl photos rather well. Thick and creamy in a vibrant green or purple – or brown if you use spinach – a good nut butter drizzle and the generous overflow streaming down the sides. It’s cool, similar to ice cream so surely is the perfect candidate for summer breakfasts when porridge most definitely isn’t the answer.

Why is it then that every time I make a smoothie, it just doesn’t float my boat. I’m not sure whether it’s that a liquid meal just doesn’t satiate my appetite? Or perhaps that I’m conscious of not adding too much fruit so instead it ends up tasting of pond, never mind resembling one? I just can’t figure it out. SOS (save ones’ smoothies).

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Now I’m sure we’ve all heard of the açai bowl. A street snack from Brazil which is a deep purple berry frozen and blended and then topped with toppings galore. Bananas, granola, berries, coconut, seeds, you name it, you can top it. Here in the UK the açai berry isn’t as abundant so we have to rely on frozen bananas for the texture and then freeze dried açai powder or little frozen sachets of the açai pulp for the taste and colour. If you’re then centering your toppings around granola, banana and berries it’s not a very balanced breakfast. Meaning spiked blood sugar levels and a grumble in your belly by 11am. Breakfast preferably wants to contain a good balance of slow and fast release carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats so we need to rethink our smoothie bowl making rituals.

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Something else that has been trending lately. Fruit-free and low-sugar smoothies. Yuppp that’s right, ones that supposedly don’t taste like salad, are filling and all add up to that much needed 5-a-day (or is it now 7, or 10? I’m not sure it keeps changing). Frozen banana is the fruit of choice when it comes to smoothies, but have you ever considered steamed and frozen cauliflower? Or courgette? Or butternut squash? Thought not. Me neither. The furthest I ever roamed into vegetable territory was spinach or kale , the odd bit of avocado – that’s technically a fruit so doesn’t count!

Steamed to make it gentler on your tummy and frozen to keep the smoothie chilled, vegetables are a wondrous addition. Paired with ground flaxseeds, a spoon of plantbased protein powder, some berries, maybe a cheeky half a date as I’m just not that hard-core, milk and any funky powders you like, you’d be none the wiser that it contains some cruciferous vegetables. A spoon of oats or soaked buckwheat blended into the mix would be ideal if you need it super filling, or a generous sprinkle (*ahem* handful) of granola or muesli…leftover cookies in my case.

Maybe this smoothie bowl is the one that will change things forever? It was good. I’m not going to lie. But I am still ever faithful to my porridge/toast/muesli/overnight-oats rotation. The girl knows what she likes. -\_(‘~’)_/-

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Maybe I haven’t landed upon the perfect granola yet? Not too sweet, plenty of crunch. The sort that you just can’t get off of your mind. Saying that, this one was mega, it hasn’t escaped my mind. Maybe I’ve found the one?!?

If you’re after some more smoothie bowl inspiration and recipes, all low sugar veggie-centric and drool worthy may I add, head to these blogs and Instagram accounts. These girls are killing it in the smoothie game.

Low-sugar açai bowl

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup steamed and frozen cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup steamed and frozen courgette (zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup berries (I used a mixture of strawberries and blackberries, any fresh or frozen would work)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup milk
  • 1 heaped tbsp açai powder
  • 1 tbsp protein powder (I used hemp)
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseeds/linseeds
  • 1/2-1 date depending on sweetness preference

Topping ideas

  • Granola (try to use a low sugar one)
  • Muesli
  • These crumbled up cookies
  • Pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • Hemp seeds
  • Fruit such as strawberries, blueberries, banana, kiwi
  • Bee pollen
  • Cacao nibs
  • Chopped Nuts
  • Nut or seed butter (I used a roasted almond, cashew and hazelnut)
  • Yogurt
  • Coconut flakes
  • Puffed rice, buckwheat, quinoa or amaranth

Directions

  1. Add all the ingredients for the smoothie into a high powdered blender, starting with 1/4 cup of milk.
  2. Blend until everything is blitzed smooth and you have a thick smoothie with the consistency of ice cream, adding more milk if necessary. A high powered blender will work best here, I use a nutribullet. One less powerful will struggle to blend the frozen fruit and vegetables and it will be lumpy.
  3. Spoon into a bowl (watch your tongue on that blade I know you’re licking it clean!)
  4. Choose your toppings, add as many or as few as you wish.
  5. Dive in whilst it’s still cold, and don’t forget that picture for Instagram!

Enjoyed al fresco basking in the morning sunshine listening to the birds whistle their tunes. That’s the ideal breakfast situation. Not achievable most of the time I know, but on the one day that it appears, make the most of it. Embrace it with both hands, the smoothie bowl included, and DIG IN!

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Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

I love the gap in between meals. I love snacks. Particularly cookies for a snack.

mmmmm cookies 

When I was younger I always loved the occasional trips with my mum to a shopping centre, bags gathered in hands with the excitement of new shoes and holiday gear. (Shoes which according to my dad should be saved for my holiday, by which time they were too small as I was the never-ending-child). We always made a detour on the way out by the Millie’s Cookies stand. Anyone also from the UK will have similar fond memories. I’d have a pick of two cookies, guaranteed white chocolate chip and the other a milk chocolate and toffee, my mum’s the oatmeal and raisin, all wrapped in a paper bag to nibble on on the car journey to my Nanan’s to bridge-the-gap before dinner.

Nowadays my cookie preference nods towards a more grown up flavour. Ideally a crispy on the outside and really gooey in the middle, the under baked kind with a good butterscotch caramel tone. Either with oats for a chew and plump raisins, or studded with dark chocolate chips (85% plus), more chocolate than cookie, and some nuts for crunch. Not forgetting that sprinkle of flaky salt. You can’t forget that.

Inevitably, eating cookies everyday isn’t going to do you any wonders. Perhaps your mental health, chocolate is known for its calming effects (I’ll take that as an excuse!!), but they are very high in sugar and fat. Sadly we do need to keep those added sugars down from day to day. On the odd occasion though, there will be no holding back.

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For the every day 4pm slot, THIS recipe has been my recent nibble. Usually I’m a fan of the two-ingredient banana and oat cookie which, as I can’t be that minimalistic, morphs into an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink cookie. They’re sweet, gooey and as we always have overripe bananas in the fruit bowl, waste-free too! (BONUS). I found this version, full of add-ins for texture, crunch and goo, on The First Mess blog, her photography always does wonders there’s no surprise that I was drawn in. I am always on the hunt for the perfect specimen of a snacking cookie. Maybe now I’ve found it?!?!

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It wouldn’t be a recipe of mine on this blog without the little tweak here and there, and this cookie is no different. I like my snacks to not be too sweet, wholesome and tasty yes, but sickly no. Initial ideas of subbing the mashed ripe banana for an equal amount of finely grated courgette, great. However the last courgette I had just put in the oven to roast, so it wasn’t going to happen after all. Next best option? Carrot. Naturally sweeter, why didn’t I think of that in the first place!

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Made with finely grated carrots, oats, toasted coconut, roasted chunks of almonds (or pecans), some cinnamon and turmeric and not forgetting the dark chocolate (that’s the important part). Make sure to under bake these, they still will feel really soft from the oven, but bear with me here. Leave them to cool fully on a rack and store in the fridge ready for a week, or two (if you’re lucky), of snacking success. Note they’re vegan, with only a little bit of added maple syrup, I’d reckon they’re good enough for breakfast? Well they were good enough for me!

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Carrot and oat chocolate chip cookies

Ingredients

  • 70g (1/2 cup) raw almonds or pecans
  • 40g (1/2 cup) coconut flakes
  • 80g (1 cup) rolled oats
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground psyllium husk (if you can’t get this use ground flaxseeds or linseeds instead)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt, plus extra for topping
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 110g (1/2 cup) finely grated carrot
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) + 2 tsp milk, I used oat milk but water works too
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, melted
  • 1 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 90g (1/2 cup) chopped dark chocolate (my favourite is 85%)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  2. Chop the almonds or pecans into small chunks and put in a tin and roast in the oven for 8 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile chop the coconut finely and after the 8 mins add the coconut and the oats to the tin and put in the oven for 4 more minutes.
  4. Pour the almonds, oats and coconut into a bowl along with the cinnamon, turmeric, salt and psyllium husk and mix well.
  5. Put the grated carrot, milk, coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup and vanilla extract in a small bowl and whisk together.
  6. Add the wet ingredients to the dry along with the chocolate (but reserve a little and put aside) fold until combined and everything is incorporated.
  7. Line two baking sheets with baking paper, or silicone mats. With an ice cream scoop place mounds of dough on the baking sheets until you have used all the mixture.
  8. Flatten to a pattie shape with damp hands, as they won’t spread in the oven. Squish the reserved chocolate chips into the top of the cookies and sprinkle rather generously with flaky salt.
  9. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, until the edges are golden and firm but the middles are still soft. I found 15 mins was perfect.
  10. Cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes then transfer to a rack until completely cool and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

 

But Seriously? We all know they won’t last that long.

Big hugs and sunshiney love

x

Date and Tahini Fudge Blondies 

You reckon you’ve officially gone woo woo when your idea of a sweet treat, an indulgent one at that, is a squidgy medjool date stuffed with some dark tahini and a sprinkle of cinnamon? I would believe so.

This my friends is me. I have become that lentil eating, hippie-dip person, who sprinkles turmeric in everything within reach and always has snacks in my bag for those often moments when nothing except crisps is available. You’d wish you were my friend when it comes to those desperate times!

Snacks! That is what we’re all here for.

Something high in protein, full of healthy fats, a hint of sweetness, nourishing and well and truly tasty. Come the 3/4pm afternoon slump the biscuit tin sure becomes appealing. A Digestive, Custard Cream, Chocolate Hobnob, ooh perhaps even a Fruit Shortcake (dead fly biscuit anyone?) or a Nice, always a good pairing to that brew. It’s true, but biscuits aren’t necessarily going to keep you powering on till the end of the work day or your commute home, and stopping at just one isn’t even an option.

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So, bring on the blondies.

I’m a fan of a homemade snack. Putting aside an hour at the weekends to mash, pour and mix up the ingredients, not only is it preparing you for the week ahead for those busy work days and long commutes, think of it as an act of self care. Doing something for yourself, with the knowledge that your emergency snack stash is nourishing and will prevent you prowling the kitchen come 8pm eating anything and everything you can lay your hands on.

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These blondies don’t contain the expected ingredients, a blondie is the blonde sister to the chocolate brownie. No chocolate or cocoa powder, think a brownie/cookie hybrid sometimes studded with addins like pecans, cranberries and white chocolate. Sounds pretty scrum right? Ok that is not what I have for you today, and there is one particular ingredient maybe you weren’t expecting?

The beauty that is the chickpea. The versatile legume made famous for its use in hummus, high in protein and low in fat, lending it’s qualities to create a dense and gooey blondie. I’ve been thinking recently about making a sweet hummus, a dip to eat with apple or carrots, spread on toast for breakfast or a snack. A change up from the regular peanut or almond butter, as there can be too much of a good thing (even peanut butter!). Tahini, dates and chickpeas along with some almond flour, coconut oil, and a flax egg in there too to help stick it all together. You can adjust the amount of dates depending on how sweet you would like, but there is no added sugars. That’s no maple syrup, honey, coconut sugar etc. just dates for some of that HELLA fibre action. And talk about the caramelly toffee flavour!

 

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They definitely won’t last long!

 

Tahini is, as you well know if you’ve read my blog before, one of my desert island foods. There’s something about its bitter depth that lends itself to all manner of foods and I honestly cannot get enough. However if you are averse to the stuff (seriously?how?) add any other nut butter you like. If you don’t have any dates available switch them out for other dried fruits, figs and cashew butter, apricots and almond butter or even raisins and peanut butter.

Date and tahini blondies

Makes 12 bars

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed/linseeds
  • 1 tin chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup dates
  • 1/3 cup dairy free milk (I used almond)
  • 4 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup tahini (light or dark, my favourite is dark)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp of almond flour
  • 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (depending how much you like it)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan.
  2. Mix the ground flax/linseeds in a small bowl with 3 tbsp. of water. Leave to gel for 10-15 mins. This makes a ‘flax egg’.
  3. Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper and set aside.
  4. Meanwhile add the chickpeas and the dates to a food processor and blend until smooth.
  5. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan, add to the food processor along with all the other ingredients including the ‘flax egg’.
  6. Blend well, scraping down the sides if necessary, until everything is combined. Tip into the tin and spread out until level.
  7. Bake in the oven 25-30 mins until firm. Leave until cool and store in the fridge in a Tupperware for up to 1 week.

 

Beans, not just for hummus!

Let me know what you think, and if you have any other sweet ways with lovely legumes I’d love to hear!

Love and hugs

X

 

Porridge from the gods

So, I was thinking what is a good way to follow a recipe post on porridge? Obviously a review of possibly THE BEST porridge cafe, like EVER!

I’m not exaggerating here

So, in the mornings I do like to make my meals that little bit special. Sprinkling on a little bit of bee pollen here, cacao nibs there, adding maca for some OOMPH. When I’m at home this is all fine and dandy, i have everything in my kitchen and my mum doesn’t mind paying for these things that make me happy (thanks mum!), however when staying away from home, i can’t fill my carry on case just with food. Ok ok i do do this, but I need some clothes to wear too. So food alll goes in the latge case, along with tupperware (my hero dressed in plastic), and clothes and shows into the carry on. Sorted.

Alas, when in London there is a saviour.

Sick of avo on toast, and nut butter on toast, I need some proper posh porridge in me.

In saunters 26 Grains, with serious amount of swagger, and porridge making credentials.

(The few times that i have visited 26 grains is when they were open in Neal’s Yard, but now they’ve moved to another location as of September 2016, so don’t follow my directions, you won’t find them there anymore!!)

Hop on the tube and get yourself down to Covent Garden, or if you’re like me WALK, everything is so much closer in London than you realise. Have a little wander over to Neal’s Yard, a little hidden oasis of calm. It is crowded but it sure ain’t rowdy. This haven is chockful of healthfood and wellness warrior hotspots. Spy Wildfood Cafe in the corner. A completely raw vegan cafe that isn’t all lentils and bird seed. Also there’s Neal’s Yard Remedies, a natural organic skincare company (its BRITISH TOO), where you can slather on the most beautiful smelling products whilst knowing that you’re not adding any bad chemicals into your body. Pick up some hippy health foods too, to recreate THAT porridge that you’ll soon be eating in 26 Grains.

I’ll start with a little background information first. Alex set up 26 grains first as a pop up and then they opened up their first shop through Crowdfunder. Whilst living in Denmark, Alex grew to love their sense of ‘hygge’. It doesn’t really translate to English directly, but means warmth and cosiness. Does a bowl of steaming porridge sound familiar? So she wanted to open a cafe serving porridge, full of wholegrains, not just oats, seasonal fruits and vegetables, cooked long and slow to retain all the goodness and give anyone eating it a lovely glow. THAT she has definitely achieved.

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Whether its breakfast, lunch, a rather hefty snack or an early dinner you are wanting, 26 Grains can cater for that. It ain’t all sweet either. Savoury porridge is a DAMN GOOD THING

I’ve now visited 26 Grains 3 times (hello mini fan over here), first all by myself at lunch time, the second on a day out with my mum (thank god, i needed someone to talk to) and the third with a friend for a little early breakfast date. The shop is a little space, with outdoor seating if it’s a nice day (we are in London though so its probably raining), or the option to take away. The menu is written on a large chalkboard on the wall, there’s jugs of water to help yourself as you take a perch at a wooden table to make your decision.

In the tiny Neal’s Yard shop, usually there are three people working in the smallest kitchen i have seen. They cook on little stoves, surrounded by a crazy array of toppings, rude health milks and steaming bubbly porridge.

First up on the menu and for my first visit it had to be the classic, Hazelnut and Butter. This is where my love affair first began. You’re probably thinking,”BUTTER IN PORRIDGE? EW!” It’s incredible. I’m telling you. And makes it even creamier. As Renee Redzeppi once said, “The only dish I go back to is porridge every morning. I cook it in milk, and it has to be steaming hot, I add a dollop of butter that melts all over it. I sprinkle flaky salt on it and if i have it, add thin slices of pork. That’s the breakfast of champions”.

I think he has got it about right.

So I visited for lunch. Picture, almond milk oats, topped with toasted hazelnuts, a nice sizeable amount of butter, cinnamon coconut sugar, and some slithers of apple. Put it in a beautiful bowl, eaten on a cold rainy day and HEY MAMA! Porridge coma here I come!

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On the next visit with my mumsy was over a spot of lunch. As we were sharing, we thought we’d get a savoury bowl and then a sweet, for a little bit of pud. So it was a bowl of crispy brown rice (something I MUST recreate) with coconut curry chickpeas, kale, aubergine pickle and coconut yogurt. Not spicy just full to the brim of flavour. One of those dishes where every mouthful tastes that bit different so you keep going back for more, and more…and moreeee.

Next up. The sweet stuff. The bowl we’d been eyeing up. Both of us admitted afterwards we were trying to eat the savoury as quickly as possible so we could dive into this! It was one of the seasonal bowls, as we were just coming out of winter into spring it meant blood oranges. Those purple tinged citrus that stain your face as they drip down, marvellous beauties. In the bowl was a toothsome (I don’t know why I’ve written that word its awful) mixture of spelt, rye and oats to make up the base. Then a topping of blood orange compote, cacao granola, pistachios and greek yogurt. Heavenly. We left nicely satisfied with a big grin on our faces. No brisk winds and pelting rain could stop us…

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And then there was the third visit. With my friend Hannah for an early breakfast. I mean I woke up at 6:30 in order to get there, dedication or what? We both opted for something sweet, Hannah had the blood orange that i had the previous time, but I had my eye on a little coconut rice concoction. Toppings consisting of cacao nibs, toasted coconut chips, lime zest, black tahini, date syrup and some extra lime to squeeze, I mean what more can you ask for. Like my childhood memories of Ambrosia rice pudding in a much more body loving form. The best by far.

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Alongside Hazelnut and Butter, Banana and Cacao and Nordic Spice are regulars on the menu. The seasonal specials don’t stick around for long, but some past members have been Blueberry Almond Butter, Rhubarb Buckwheat Cardamom Granola, Matcha Cacao Coconut, Raspberry Cacao Tahini Fennel and Apple Beetroot Cranberry. I could go on and on but I’d like to leave some element of surprise for you.


So onto the savoury is the favourite of Egg and Kale (yesss egg on porridge, think of the oooooze) also some avo on there for good measure, but past creations have been Indonesian Chicken, Sticky Teriyaki Mushrooms, Orange Buckwheat Feta, just to name a few. There’s a Bircher muesli and smoothie bowl for those wanting something on the colder side, banana bread, bliss balls, smoothies, juices, brilliant coffees and matcha lattes. Basically anything superfoodie, they’ve got it.

So what’s to come next? Alex has a book coming out soon. I’m expecting lots of porridge recipes and food with a scandi influence. The pages will probably smell of cardamom. They’re moving out of the Neal’s Yard store to a new location which opens in September, I can’t tell you exactly where yet because I don’t know! So if you’re ever in the vicinity, please don’t hesitate to stop off at 26 Grains. You’re looking to spend around £6 for a sweet bowl and about £8 for a savoury, you can’t get much for that price in the big smoke and you’re guaranteed to not be feeling hangry 1 hour later.

If anyone visits please let me know about it, I want to hear your experiences too. I’ll definitely be back to visit the new store when it opens, so look out for some pics on my instagram. In the meantime, don’t mind me as I’m now off to cook, porridge for breakfast lunch and dinner anyone?

Love, bliss and full tummies

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